It’s impossible to know the future, but we can do our best to prepare for it. That’s why if you’re a parent, especially of a high school senior heading off to college this fall, you’ll want to pick up a copy of She’s Conservative: Stories of Trials and Triumphs on America’s College Campuses. This collection of 22 essays by women affiliated with the Network of Enlightened Women—a book club for conservative college-age and young professional women—offers readers a window into what it’s like to be a Gen Z conservative woman on campus.
Every essay is different, as are the women and campuses they reflect. However, 11 lessons emerge over the course of the easy-to-read 100-plus pages.
1. Buckle Up. You already know this in theory, but the book offers many concrete examples of campus leftists making college life harder for anyone who rejects, or even questions, their orthodoxy. Margaret Reid writes of her time at Western Michigan University, “At one point, it got so bad that I lied to friends and professors about what I supported, so I would not lose friendships or see my grades suffer.”
2. Prepare for Condescension. Grace Bannister writes, “At Harvard, my independently formed political beliefs are challenged as backward and often blamed on my rural West Virginia upbringing . . . Making matters worse, many on campus believe there is something inherently wrong with conservative women. They think we are oppressed or uneducated.” Sarah George writes, “When I tell my liberal peers I am conservative, the few who don’t immediately recoil in horror determinedly start explaining to me how confused I am.”
3. Shut Up, They Explained. Brooke Reynolds writes that at Western Carolina University, “my right-of-center peers and I had felt silenced and marginalized on campus time and again . . . our views on campus are constantly mocked, criticized and silenced.” Rebecca Malone writes, “Our critics [at American University] did not actually debate us on substance, they just name-called.”
4. The Gender Traitor Charge. If you have a daughter, prepare her for liberal mansplaining about her being a gender traitor. While tabling for NeW at a student activities fair, Margaret Reid writes that a fellow student “capped off his round of insults by calling conservative women like me ‘dangerous.’”
Sophie Czerniecki writes that Catholic University peers asked, “‘How could you even be female and conservative?’ and ‘Do you have any respect for yourself?’” Paris Rizzo of Presbyterian College memorably observes, “Being a conservative woman in a liberal world is like walking through an archery range with a target on your back.”
5. Groupthink is Enforced; Dissenters Are Punished. Magdalene Horzempa writes, “I have been given dirty looks, called names and accused of being ‘brainwashed’ [at Chapel Hill]. Some liberal women on campus made it a mission to ‘reform’ me. My worst experience was when I was almost physically assaulted due to my conservative beliefs.” Neetu Chandak reflects, “While I expected disagreement from many Cornellians for my views, I was mentally and emotionally unprepared for the backlash, name-calling and threats to my physical safety.”
6. There Are No Safe Spaces. The most shocking essay is by Liberty University’s Brittany Slaughter. After opening with the anonymously sourced, “‘Liberty University doesn’t need safe spaces, it is one,” Slaughter shows that’s not true. She writes about sharing conservative opinion pieces she’d written on Facebook; an online flame war ensued. In politely trying to end it, she “posted: ‘Have a great night. G-d bless.’ Their response? I was told to ‘have fun with my Nazis.’”
7. Support Matters. Numerous students cited conservative student groups, including NeW, as crucial, for both a reality check and community. Georgetown’s Amelia Irvine writes, “between my friends in Love Saxa and like-minded women I met through the Network of enlightened Women, I enjoy a support system that gives me strength, an oasis of reality amid a flood of liberal delusion.”
8. The Heat Makes You Bolder. Mia Steuppert writes about Emmanuel College, “I am often the only conservative in class and am forced to defend my views to peers and professors alike. They like to single me out and pick on me . . . And I have grown to like the challenge.”
9. Persuasion Is (Sometimes) Possible. George Washington University’s (GW) Caroline Hakes opines, “I don’t believe in combative conservatism; I believe the best way to bring young people, specifically women, to the conservative cause is through level-headed, compassionate dialogue.”
10. Conservatives Learn Grit. Allison Berger writes of her time at Princeton, “courage, perseverance and hard work stand out as of paramount importance. The outrage and vitriol directed at campus conservatives is often loud and public and can be personally upsetting . . . [but] rather than deterring me from expressing my views, these experiences strengthened my conviction in the value of conservative beliefs.”
George Washington’s Brianna Mirabile writes, “I began to speak up. I started to defend my beliefs. By the end of my freshman year and throughout my sophomore year, I grew and evolved by engaging in courageous conversations with peers and professors.” Neetu Chandak writes, “I faced challenges that tore down the person I thought I was supposed to become and built me into the person I needed to be: confident, empowered, courageous.”
11. Conservatives Get a Better Education. As Emily Hall closed her essay, “Sheltering students from opposing views does not provide a rigorous academic experience, and it also fails to prepare them for life after college . . . As for me, I am thankful that I walked away [from Harvard] with my degree stronger, wiser and more prepared to take on the real world with my conservative views firmly intact.”